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I-House Exceeds Fundraising Goal of $10 Million

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday April 03, 2007

It’s more than just a house on a hill. For 76 years International House at UC Berkeley has been a second home to more than 60,000 scholars from around the world—a place where Palestinians have dialogues with Israelis, Christians share meals with Muslims and, most recently, an Iraqi made his first Iranian friend. 

“Our purpose is to foster intercultural respect and understanding, lifelong friendships and leadership skills for the promotion of a more tolerant and peaceful world,” said I-House executive director Joseph Lurie who has served in this role for almost two decades. 

Lurie retires from I-House in June but leaves behind a legacy that has created a stronger I-House. What started out as an ambitious campaign on January 1, 2003, to honor the 2005-06 75th anniversary of International House concluded March 1, 2007, with the successful raising of $10.6 million to support building renovations, scholarship funds, intercultural programs and technology. 

The campaign helped the I-House to get the largest foundation grant in its history—a prestigious $500,000 challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation. 

“It occurred to me that 75 is a number that deserves celebration,” said Lurie, speaking to the Planet about the origin of the campaign. 

“When you have a birthday there are always gifts. This campaign is a gift for the future well-being of the I-House. At first our goal was to raise $7.5 million, consistent with the 75 years. But with so many alumni who are passionate about our purpose—and one which is still as important in today’s world as ever—we stretched to increase the goal.” 

Lurie stressed that the millions in funds from endowments would provide financial aid to students who couldn’t afford to live at the I-House without assistance. 

“We have both geographic and socio-economic diversity at the House. Currently, we have nearly 600 students from eighty countries and twenty-five American states. Since I-House is a self-supporting non-profit organization, gifts in support of our mission are key to our operations and fulfilling our mission,” he said. 

Student scholarships garnered a total of $3.4 million in support, in large part thanks to a unique partnership with the UC Berkeley Graduate Division. 

“Eleven ‘Gateway’ fellowships were created that provide entering first year Ph.D. students with I-House room and board, which is then matched courtesy of UC Berkeley’s Graduate Division with tuition, fees, and a $5,000 stipend,” said Lurie. 

Tuition and fees currently exceed $25,000 per year for overseas and out-of-state students, often closing the gateway to UC Berkeley for many. Private room and board costs for a single room at I-House alone are in the range of $11,500 annually. 

“Even with different scholarships, it’s kind of expensive to live here,” said Qian Liu, a fourth year Ph.D. student who resides at the I-House with the help of a scholarship from Uppsala University in Sweden. 

“But the international experience really helps,” she continued. “I really love it here. There’s so much going on all the time that you never get bored. I enjoy the interaction, the excitement of the different cultures.” 

A melange of events—including “Sunday Suppers,” discussion groups, and festivals—have dotted the I-House landscape since it officially opened on August 18, 1930. 

The first coeducational, inter-racial residence west of New York, the intercultural housing facility attracted controversy and raised fears in the community about “mixed marriages” in the ‘30s. 

“John D. Rockefeller Jr., whose gift of $1,800,000 to the University of California established the I-House, wanted it to be a laboratory for a new kind of experiment—‘the day-to-day practice of international fellowship among men and women,’” said Lurie. 

“Since then, the House has made every attempt to integrate the human race. What is the point of coming to the United States of America if you are going to live on an island?” 

Behind much of I-House’s success is its strong Board of Directors and alumni, who contributed generously toward the campaign. 

“We wouldn’t have been able to be successful in raising funds if it hadn’t been for the 3,000 donors who contributed nearly 5,500 gifts. A lot of these came from alumni,” said Shanti Corrigan, director of development and alumni relations at the I-House. 

“We were also inspired by the challenge from the Kresge Foundation, which said that if we raised $9.5 million, they would give $500,000.” 

A total of $3.5 million—including the Kresge Foundation grant—was raised toward improving the historic Spanish Moorish building at Piedmont Avenue. 

“We really needed to renovate the 75- year-old plumbing infrastructure in the 55 bathrooms at the I-House and improve our amenities and access for persons with disabilities,” said Lurie. 

Any dollar that came in between January 1, 2003, and March 1, 2007, went toward the 75th anniversary campaign, said Corrigan, who also spoke of new naming opportunities the campaign launched, including allowing former residents to name their rooms and the Buy-A-Brick Program that inspired 250 alumni and friends to make $500 gifts and inscribe personal messages on patio bricks outside the International House Café. 

“A lot of those people who bought bricks were among nearly 1,000 couples who met at I-House and went on to get married. There are wonderful sentiments shared there that celebrate the love and friendship that I-House has seeded over the decades,” she said. 

“We were fortunate that so many people stepped forward to help us. For us, the challenge was to make sure that we were as inclusive as possible in engaging as many I-House alumni from around the world in both the celebration and campaign over the world. We wanted this campaign to contribute to the future success of the I-House.” 

According to Corrigan, the campaign reached out extensively through community events, alumni reunions and even the Internet. 

“We held reunions in London, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Paris, New York, Melbourne and Milan and several events at the House to make sure we maximized participation,” she said. 

A Campaign Leadership Committee headed by Peter J. Robertson, Vice-Chairman President of Chevron, helped guide campaign outreach. 

As part of the campaign and in tribute to Joe Lurie, the board also launched the beginnings of another scholarship. Lurie is currently trying to create another “Gateway” scholarship, this time for returning Peace Corps volunteers pursuing Ph.D. studies at UC Berkeley. 

“Our campus has more Peace Corps volunteers than any college campus in the United States, and yet we don’t offer them any scholarship assistance,” he said. “I’m delighted this effort is under way and will likely gain momentum at our 19th Annual I-House Celebration and Awards Gala.”  

Patricia Garamendi, former Associate Director of the Peace Corps, will provide a keynote address at the May 3 event. 


For more information about I-House, its housing opportunities, its many public programs, public dining services, café, and financial aid offerings visit  



Photograph by Riya Bhattacharjee 

International House Executive Director Joe Lurie talks with fourth-year Ph.D. student Qian Liu over lunch at the I-House dining room, which is also open to the public.